My previous experiences of golf in Portugal, like so many, were based on the well-trodden path along the Algarve. And while it is hard to question the merits of San Lorenzo and Quinta Do Lago, I was ready for something different, something away from the norm like the edgy hipster I am.
This time I wouldn’t be part of the carousel of travel bags at Faro but in Lisbon, the country’s capital city, and home to some quite brilliant courses.
The specific area I would be visiting is Cascais, just 12 miles from the airport and less than a three hour flight from the UK. Cascais is located on the extreme westernmost tip of continental Europe and home to seven courses. Our accommodation for the four days was the Oitavos Hotel, opened in 2010 and based between Estoril, Cascais and Sintra.
Overlooking protected sand dunes and the Atlantic Ocean, the building’s clever design allows it to fit into its natural surroundings. It had a modern contemporary feel with lots of open spaces and huge glass walls. And the staff were superb; upon returning from golf every day I would find my dirty clothes, which had been left on the floor, neatly folded and placed on the side. Even Mrs Clive stopped going to such efforts in the late 90s.
To get our eye in, a friendly nine holes were played at Quinta Da Marinha where fast greens and a Robert Trent Jones Sr design made for a fun initiation. Despite being rusty and blaming jet lag for the opening three off the tee, the course played fair and the views between the hills and ocean made for great Instagram (check me out) content.
Now I’m closer to 50 than, ahem, 20, it is nice to seek the odd occasional activity on a holiday that falls outside of golf (or drinking). Cascais appears to have activity-based tourism covered; a great way to see the natural surroundings is the Sintra jeep safari. A halfday tour is ample to break the day up, starting off with a close-up of the marvellous coastline and then climbing up the Sintra hills.
From here at the highest point on the west coast of Portugal, you have a breathtaking view across the whole of Cascais and the Atlanic Ocean. Back to the golf though, and the Lisbon Sports Club is just 20 minutes from the capital.
This is one of the oldest clubs in Portugal, having been founded in 1880. Adding to the non commercial feel, your bags are put onto an assortment of randomly characterful trolleys and the locker room is steeped in club history.
Out on the course there is no sign of any real estate framing a single hole, instead it has untouched woodland. Highlights were tee shots, particularly on the short 3rd and par-5 5th, where you climb up little steps into the woods before finding a small clearing occupied by a tee box and the picturesque sight of the hole standing alone.
Keeping up with activities that combine with culture, Waterx offer a catamaran service that takes you up and down the coast. The boat is like a luxury tour bus ride, giving close-up views of the city’s historical landmarks, such as the Praça do Comércio, or the Palace Yard.
This was the location of the royal palace until it was destroyed by the great 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Another place of note is Ponte de 25 Abril, the 27th largest suspension bridge in the world and the identical twin to San Francisco’s Golden Gate.
The final day’s golf saved the best until last. Many consider Oitavos Dunes to be the best in the country. This is well removed from the kind of target parkland golf familiar to the Iberian countries, instead offering a wonderful combination of woodland and seaside-style holes with the feel of a classic British out-and-back links.
The par-3 9th and 14th are sensational, the latter with a stunning mountain background and a winding zig-zag path made of railway sleepers guiding you to the green.
Where my ball was, I couldn’t tell you but such details matter little on a course of this standing. All being well I’ll be back very soon.